Running Scared (Part 5): God Speaks on People & Their Judgments

Read about what I’m doing here. Part one here.  Part two here.  Part three here and here.  Part four here.

A friend asked me why I choose this book as the summer book of the quarter at Calvary and for “blogging the book” here.  This was my tongue in cheek answer:  Ed Welch saved my life.  Obviously, I do not mean that in a salvific sense, but I am referring more to the way that Welch helped me deal with a very difficult aspect of the way I live and relate to others through his book When People Are Big and God is Small.  You see, I am a recovering people-pleaser and the ministry is not a good place for people-pleasers (in the long run).  The story goes like this:  In the summer of 1998, I am walking though a bookstore with my mentor and he picks up Welch’s book and says – “Adam, you need to read this.”  I do not recall my answer (I probably said sure or I’ll get right on that), but I certainly was not aware of how the fear of man had dominated my life to that point.  That began a journey for me in addressing this issue – one that continues.

In this section, chapters 15-17, Welch deals with the fear of people with the concepts of fear, worry, and anxiety in view.  And so, this section starts with this:

WE SO DESPERATELY need each other’s approval.”

We fear people when they hold onto what it is that we think we need: “love, acceptance, approval.”  In fearing the lack of those things, we end up fearing the people that we want to provide those – even if it is someone we have never met before and never will again.  In this light, we see how this fear turns us away from God and makes people into idols that we bow before and that is the real problem.

The problem comes when we want thest things too much, when we want them for our own glory rather than God’s.  Notice how human desires go topsy-turvy when we stray outside of God’s kingdom.”

So what are the answers, besides trying harder?  Here is Welch is at his best:  drawing back to God, His Word, and His character.  Here were a few of the ways that he encourages us to fight the fear & idolatry of man:

  • Love for others:  “Without adaquate human love, we feel paralyzed to love.  We want to be filled with the love of others before we move out in love towards others…At root, our yearning for love and acceptance from other people (when it is more important that loving and accepting others) is evidence of allegiancees to ourselves.  We prefer to be the king rather than serve the King.”  There’s that concept of allegiances again.  Welch deals with this concept of loving others, even to the point of imbalance, in chapter sixteen.  This concept, as he show us again, cannot be accomplished in our own strength, but we must look to the source and model of all sacrificial love:  Jesus Christ.
  • Fear of God:  This is a huge topic, but there is great help for us in chapter seventeen.  The upshot is that we need a greater fear to move us out of the fear of man and that is the fear of God.  “How can we define it?  The fear of the Lord results from knowing that I always live coram deo – I live before the face of the Holy GodFear still reveals our allegiance, this time in a positive way.  If we have a mature fear of the Lord, it means that we value and revere him above all else.  That’s how we fight fear with fear.”

These make sense to me and I can see in my own life how, when applied, they replace the fear of man.  And in those I find great freedom, but I find that I still long for the bondage of slavery to sin at times and I go back to “tried and true” methods of relating (people-pleasing, fear, conflict avoidance).  And so Welch gives this gem of a thought:  “When in doubt, repent.”  And then there is this question that comes up several times:

Why am I so concerned about me?”


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tag Tuck on August 14, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Good thought! When in doubt, repent.


  2. Posted by Gina on August 14, 2008 at 11:18 am

    A quote that jumped out at me from chapter 15: “Low self-esteem. This isn’t so much that I feel bad about myself, it is that I feel bad about myself because I think you feel bad about me.”

    And another from chapter 17: “My world must be very small for me to be preoccupied with the opinions of others.”

    A few red flags/twitches of annoyance: in chapter 16, Welch talks about loving others. We’re supposed to outdo others in love and even strive for that imbalance. What about burning out, being used, maintaining boundaries? Isn’t there something to the idea of being filled up so we can be poured out? Or is that too self-centered?

    On p.194, Welch talks about God’s holiness, and he states, “Your challenge is to clear your mind of all human references.” I’ve never gotten this concept. I am human, and so all I know of God is in relation to humans. My only concept of a father is my earthly father, and so I understand how God is like and not like my earthly father. Same with king, lover, friend, etc. How am I supposed to think about and interact with God if not in reference to similar (or dissimilar) human relationships?


  3. Posted by adamtisdale on August 14, 2008 at 1:43 pm


    I think these are fair questions.

    On the first, I think Welch would point us to the need to be filled by our Lord, rather than looking for filling from others. The point all along is that you can’t love like this in your own strength. That said, there is nothing easy about it.

    (I was going to delete this and start over, but I decided to leave it; I’m not sure I agree with myself!) On the second: ultimately I think this is what life in Christ means – learning to live and see with an eternal perspective. It’s not really true that all you know of God is in relation to humans, it may only feel that way. It’s actually the reverse sometimes: you understand love by seeing how God defines love, for example. But I understand what you are saying and maybe that was too simple & impossible statement by Welch on 194.


  4. Posted by Tag on August 15, 2008 at 1:08 am


    I think you’re on to something, Adam when you mentioned that we understand love by seeing how God defines love and not merely from “similar or dissimilar human relationships” like Gina wrote. Because if all I knew about God was in relation to humans then I would only know about God imperfectly. But there is something about God’s character that transcends what we experience in human relationships.

    To use a different example: if we saw God as king and only knew him from kings that we have known on earth, then we might think that God is a king and that means that he has the right to bend the rules to make things work because that is sort of the norm for kings. Yet, when we see the kings in the Bible doing this (most especially Saul, David and Solomon) we realize that they are wrong and we recognize that because we know something of the character of God. And so we could judge Saul thinking in a manner like this: “If Jesus had been on the throne instead of Saul, then Samuel wouldn’t have heard the bleating of sheep, etc.”

    So, like Adam was getting at, we know what an earthly king should be like because of our heavenly king.


  5. Posted by adamtisdale on August 15, 2008 at 9:25 am

    See, I am right. Thank you Tag.

    But wait, wouldn’t we say that our understanding is still in relationship to human relationships (albeit negatively in the example of the king) or not?


  6. Posted by Gina on August 15, 2008 at 9:40 am

    See, I am right. Thank you Adam.


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